The coming conflicts

President's perspective

2004 was not a good year for the Australian labour movement or for our United States colleagues. Everyone will have a view on what they thought went wrong and what should have been done. At the Evatt Foundation Annual General Meeting in December, we had an open discussion on the priority issues that should be considered by the executive committee, when we consider the papers, seminars, and our website program this year. My view is that there are common issues in the United States and Australian elections.

Both incumbent leaders were favoured by the twelve-year economic cycle. Bush and Howard were able to use terrorism, the fear of the unknown, indeed, in Howard's case, the fear of increased interest rates, to gain re-election. Both countries have had record trade deficits, bubbling housing markets, record low national savings rates, but, above all, they have large corporations increasing their power politically and economically. We must face the reality that the Bush administration is qualitatively a more big business dominated administration than any previous US government. At the same time, the Howard government is under increasing pressure to adopt a program for the second half of this year that is in lock step with the political, economic and cultural agenda of corporate America.

You do not have to rely on left wing thinkers: in the United States, the vast majority of intellectuals are opposed to President Bush. John W Dean, former counsel to the Republican President Richard Nixon, is typical of the conservatives. In his book, Worse than Watergate - the secret presidency of George Bush, he detailed the links with big business, most particularly through vice president, Dick Cheney.

Dean gives detail of the secrecy and duplicity of the Bush-Cheney team. He nails 'Cheney as the co-president incognito, who works behind closed doors and who does not answer to the Congress or the public. His partner, the president, is not sufficiently knowledgeable about their policies to answer questions about them adequately, if and when he does occasionally make himself available. It is not that he is stupid, only ignorant and apparently by design'.

Dean sums up what others have said, that the real power relationship is with Cheney doing what he does best, operating out of sight, but running the Bush White House. Bush is the nation's Chairman of the Board: Cheney is the Chief Executive. Cynics say that if anything happened to Cheney, Bush would become president.